Assembly Republican leader tries to streamline the Legislature

capitolFrontOtto von Bismarck, the German chancellor in the 19th Century, never visited California. But he could have had the state Legislature in mind when he said, “Laws are like sausages — it is best not to see them being made.”

Observers on all sides of the political spectrum agree the legislative process in the Golden State is cumbersome and not too rational. To make things a little less unwieldy, Assembly Republican Leader Kristin Olsen has introduced several reform proposals. She said:

“Every time you read the paper, there is another story about bills being passed in the dead of night, politicians in scandal, or ridiculous bills that do nothing to make California a better place to live. We want to restore our constituents’ faith in this institution. That’s why we have introduced a legislative package to modernize state government and make it work for the people.”

Three of the proposals:

Assembly Constitutional Amendment 1 is by Olsen. It would institute a three-day “print rule,” meaning that’s how long a bill must be in print before it can be voted on. The idea is to end the “gut and amend” process in the waning hours of the Legislature in late August, when bills introduced earlier in the year are completely rewritten, then a vote taken with little or no time for legislators to read the bills.

Assembly Constitutional Amendment 5 is by Assembly member Shannon Grove, R-Bakersfield. It would introduce a two-year budget. In odd-numbered years, the Legislature largely would spend all its time enacting a two-year budget. In even-numbered years, it would conduct all other business.

The idea is to focus the Legislature’s attention more intently on the budget, while also making it more future-oriented by extending its vision from one year to the next two years.

House Resolution 14 is by Assembly member Melissa Melendez, R-Murrieta. It would drop the limit on the number of bills a legislator could introduce in a two-year session to 20 from 40.

The Los Angeles Times reported after the Feb. 27 deadline to introduce bills, “Senators introduced 793 bills by Friday, compared with 813 filed in 2013. The Assembly had 1,504 bills filed, an increase from the 1,430 introduced in the lower house in 2013.”

For both houses, that’s a total of 2,297 bills legislators have to consider — before the “gut and amend” process begins in late August. H.R. 14’s idea is to reduce that to a more manageable number.

Olsen says the reforms are not new. And with Republicans in the minority, the reforms are unlikely to go far.

But this is more a part of the Republicans’ statewide effort to become more relevant by being less reactive and more proactive.

John Seiler

John Seiler

John Seiler has been writing about California for 25 years. That includes 22 years as an editorial writer for the Orange County Register and two years for, where he is managing editor. He attended the University of Michigan and graduated from Hillsdale College. He was a Russian linguist in U.S. Army military intelligence from 1978 to 1982. He was an editor and writer for Phillips Publishing Company from 1983 to 1986. He has written for Policy Review, Chronicles,, Flash Report and numerous other publications. His email: [email protected]

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